UK: Sudden Oak Death brings out the Chainsaws

A Tag at Forest Policy Research called: Infestation fanaticism focuses on all the excitement related to diseases that threatens trees. Too often the trees are not as vulnerable to disease as they are to people who claim logging of diseased trees is the solution.

SOD, or Sudden Oak Death was first found in coastal Northern California over a decade ago continues to spread. This disease is not destroying vast landscapes yet. But it’s been portrayed that way in the UK recently:

Phytophthora ramorum, first noticed in an oak tree in England six years ago, is now attacking Japanese larch, beech, birch and sweet chestnut. It has also spread to woodlands many miles apart without apparent explanation. The discovery was made this autumn by Forestry Commission workers who noticed unusual dieback and brown leaves on trees during the summer. The disease was first known in the US where it has killed many trees in California and Oregon. It is thought to have arrived in Britain on saplings imported from the Continent and has particularly affected red and turkey oaks. English native white oaks have been unscathed. Rhododendrons and the heathland bilberry have also been affected and diseased plants have infected some adjacent trees. But what has horrified tree specialists is that the affected trees are not linked to other infected sites and the disease has spread to woodlands more than 60 miles apart. So far it is confined to the South West: hundreds of trees in public forests and private woodlands in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset have died or are in decline.

Among the infected sites are Plym Woods, east of Plymouth; Largin Wood, in Cornwall; and Canonteign Woods, near Exeter. Landowners have been alerted. Urgent surveillance is under way to check the spread of the disease to other areas. Those believed to be most at risk are the Forest of Dean, the Marches on the English-Welsh border, the Forest of Bowland in Lanacashire, the Lake District and forestry in Wales. Teams of forestry workers are inspecting trees for other disease hotspots. Plant health experts at the Food and Environment Research Agency and Forest Research are also investigating. Chris Marrow, the Forestry Commission’s forestry director in the South West, said it was alarming that the disease had jumped species. “We have seen beech and birch trees infected before but only when in contact with infected rhododendrons, but this disease outbreak is very different.” Mr Marrow said he was concerned at the speed at which trees had been killed. “If other hotspots are identified, we will have to do some preventative felling to stop spread of the disease. We have put up notices in infected forests urging people to stick to footpaths and keep dogs on a short lead.”

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